A real people person

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Billy Ballantine, of House of Travel Lakers, shows the Best Travel Consultant, Retail, Award he won in Auckland last month at the Travel Agents' Association of New Zealand National Travel Industry Awards.

A MAORI proverb asks: “What is the most important thing in the world?”

The answer: “It is people, it is people, it is people.”

For many companies, people and relationships are also the most important thing in business, and this is certainly true for Billy Ballantine, from House of Travel Lakers (Invercargill), who was awarded the Best Travel Consultant, Retail, Award at the Travel Agents’ Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) National Travel Industry Awards in Auckland last month.

Held at SkyCity Convention Centre, finalists attended from travel agencies nationwide.

During his six years working at House of Travel Lakers, Mr Ballantine won a range of national travel industry awards, including Top Selling Consultant for Trafalgar Tours, Globus Tours and Contiki Holidays.

He had qualified for House of Travel’s elite Top Sellers Group for the past six years in a row, but winning the Best Travel Consultant, Retail, Award was like winning “the Oscars for the whole industry”, he said.

Mr Ballantine was one of only three top sellers selected from more than 2000 travel consultants from almost 400 travel agencies across all brands nationwide.

He went to Auckland and was given half an hour in front of a panel of TAANZ judges to give a slideshow presentation on why he should win, he said.

“You just tell them your story, what your values are and stuff like that. It’s not just the business, how many clients you put through. Customer service is number one, and being different from everyone else. You’ve got to go the extra mile and having repeat clients [in such a competitive market] is quite important,” he said.

House of Travel Lakers (Invercargill) owner-operator Tony Laker said strong customer service values were a signature of House of Travel Lakers, which won the TAANZ Outlet of the Year Award in 2013.

He had been working to diversify the office and now had 18 employees, whereas the average travel agency office usually had about four, he said.

“When the people walk in the door, it’s the ‘Billys’ that ensure the sales. That’s what Billy does so well and [this award] is a major accomplishment for him and for Southland – it’s the pinnacle of Billy’s profession in New Zealand.”

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